I got a large batch of walnuts and started cracking them using a standard hinged lever nutcracker (ostkaka from IKEA). It is pretty messy and either the whole thing gets squashed to pieces and it's hard to pick out the nut pieces from shell pieces.

Or it can be split in two, but than the nut is still stuck in the shell and it's a long process to carefully get it out of there (even if I don't care to keep the nut intact)

Does it just take more practice or is there a technique or better tool to crack walnuts?

Image of a ostkaka from IKEA

  • 3
    What do you think a "standard" nutcracker is? I can picture at least three different styles of nutcracker, all of which are fairly common.
    – csk
    Dec 23, 2020 at 15:43
  • Not sure if it is the walnut quality itself, but unripe, greener or when not properly dried, walnuts can be particularly hard to crack, the shell is stronger and wont crack easily to the point where, as you describe, you either get a incomplete crack hard to pick the contents from, or a mush. Dec 23, 2020 at 17:27
  • @csk I added information about the nutcracker. it's from ikea and called "ostkaka". is it common to add an image too?
    – blues
    Dec 23, 2020 at 21:31
  • I added the image for you. tbh, those are the worst type of nutcracker as you have absolutely no control over them.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 24, 2020 at 10:04
  • Gosh, before the clarification, I only pictured the soldier nutcracker for Christmas! Dec 24, 2020 at 16:38

4 Answers 4


At my house we use a butter knife. At the bottom of a walnut, there's always a small crack that we can slip the tip of the knife through, then twist the knife by the handle and the shells come apart. The little separator in the shell can also be easily removed with the butter knife.

But other than that, we sometimes opt to simply grab two walnuts, and with our two hands, crush the shells against each others, and one of the two walnut shells will Crack and give way. Disclaimer: this method can get messy.

  • I've never seen anyone capable of doing the two nuts in hand technique other than on TV. I certainly can't do it. Either the nuts are different ages/strengths, or I've the grip of a 10-year-old boy…
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 24, 2020 at 10:25
  • @Tetsujin It certainly is possible. We have the same technique at home and it works perfectly, but as the answerer notes it does get really messy sometimes when more force is required to crack the walnut. We do this with the walnuts out of the backyard or from the grocery store.
    – Tom Sol
    Dec 24, 2020 at 12:46

In our family we use a screwdriver in the same way as the first answer uses a butter knife, (and I think that butter knife is more likely to be the safe choice.)
But for those nuts that resist and for most other nuts, we use a 'waterpomptang', which is translated to pipe wrench or tongue-and-groove pliers, you need the kind with the two legs and the adjustable jaws.
You need to set the jaws to the size of the nut, slightly smaller is the best. Adjust the power you put on the legs to the force the nut needs.


After the nutcracker type was added to the question…

Those are frankly the worst type of nutcracker. You have no control over how far the jaws close & not much leverage - so you tend to try get each nut as far into the jaws as you can to get enough force, then squeeze two-handed with all the force you can - risking nut, knuckles & any nearby glassware in the process;) Once the nut gives, the jaws slam shut, smashing the whole nut to smithereens.

Short of buying some expensive specialist cracker (that in most houses will get used once a year at xmas) then Willeke's idea of a pipe wrench is perfect. You have essentially an adjustable gap so you don't crush them & lots more leverage. You can get a really cheap & cheerful version for maybe $£€ 5 if you don't ever need to tug on pipe nuts, only walnuts.

If you're in the UK you need to search "water pump pliers" to get the correct type. Searching actually 'pipe wrench' or adjustable spanner/wrench won't find the right thing. A search on a 'proper' toolshop like B&Q, Screwfix etc will cost you 20 - 40 quid, but you can get cheapo on eBay for under £4. Perhaps also a supermarket or general tool stockist of the type you find at cheap indoor/outdoor markets (those stores that sell a 40-piece screwdriver set for 2.50 that will last until you need to actually undo a screw;) if there's anything like that open where you live & you need one for xmas day.

As these all have a click (or twist) adjust, you size it to close to slightly smaller than the nut, then fire away. Loads of leverage, loads of control & a measured gap that won't smash them.

Once you own one of these tools, you'll be amazed at how many other uses you can find for it - even if you never go anywhere near a pipe ;) Tight lids (be careful on glass jars of course), reluctant screw tops on anything, from food to glue tubes… Mine get far more use than the actual nut crackers buried at the back of the cutlery drawer.

  • In both my house that pipe wrench lives near the main shutoff for the water, and it get used to close that if I have forgotten to close it regularly.
    – Willeke
    Oct 24, 2021 at 9:09

I cracked a lot of walnuts when I was a child, as bowls of mixed, unshelled nuts including almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, and of course, walnuts, were our primary treats.

This is the technique for your nutcracker. I never had anything better, and I did it alot

Align the "split" in the walnut with the arms/jaws of the nutcracker. Apply just enough pressure to crack it into two halves. This will probably only crack one "end"...so rotate nut 180 degrees to work on other end. Once split (you may need to pry them apart with fingers or tool), take 1 half, rotate 90 degrees and crush very gently, enough to crack the half-shell but not crush the precious insides. With a good crack, you can remove a large part of the half-shell, if not the entire thing, as well as the internal inedible pieces that separate the walnut into four quarters.

With practice, you will not even have to split the nut before rotating 90 degrees to deliver the final crack whereupon you can remove big chunks of outer shell, leaving the internal nut ready to remove and eat by quarters (or halves if you also get good at removing that internal quartering support structure at the same time).

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